Edmond’s Oct. 12 election is looking a little less complicated.
Edmond residents will be asked whether to pass a 12-month 0.25 cent sales tax for purchasing 22 acres of controversial property adjacent to Hafer Park, one of the city’s most beloved community resources. If voters reject the tax, a private developer will move forward with a planned 276-unit mixed-use development.
Citizens who oppose the development project but who also had concerns with the sales tax proposal’s contractual details spent weeks collecting more than 4,000 signatures to hold a referendum election on the private developer’s PUD approval — the “planned unit development” zoning modification passed earlier this year by the Edmond City Council.
While those citizens turned in more than enough signatures to force the referendum election, a filed legal challenge to the petition means the referendum will not be eligible for the Oct. 12 ballot. An Oct. 5 hearing has been set for the legal challenge in Oklahoma County District Court, according to Steve Murdock, Edmond city attorney.
A separate referendum petition on a separate housing PUD — north of Memorial Road and west of I-35 Frontage Road — also received enough signatures to reach a ballot but has also been challenged.
“At this point, neither referendum is eligible to go on a ballot for Oct. 12. You have to submit it 60 days ahead of time, obviously we can’t do that since there are court cases involved,” Casey Moore, Edmond’s public information director, told NonDoc in July. “Those items could not be on a ballot until those court cases have cleared up, and so once that happens then it would be at least 60 days after that.”
During their meeting Monday night, Edmond City Council members approved the final steps for holding the Oct. 12 sales tax election.
The council unanimously approved a purchase agreement to add the 22 acres to the Edmond park system, without a pair of controversial conditions that had been included in a prior proposed agreement.
The council also unanimously approved having Murdock file the necessary paperwork with the Oklahoma County Election Board to call the Oct. 12 sales tax election. Murdock said he would file the paperwork Tuesday.
Background on the Hafer Park-adjacent petition
Councilman Josh Moore, who moved to approve the items Monday, said that “the best thing to do is to allow the citizens to vote” on the sales tax proposal.
But he also asked a series of questions of city staff intended to underscore why the Edmond City Council approved the controversial PUD for the 22 acres in the first place. He noted how privately owned property generates property tax dollars to fund schools, and he noted that retail commerce generates sales tax dollars for other municipal services.
“For me, in a lot of emails I receive, we’re still hearing about, ‘Why was this project approved?’ ‘Why was the PUD approved?’” Josh Moore said. “[It] had unanimous approval from (the Edmond) Planning Commission. It had recommendation for approval from staff.”
Josh Moore was involved in discussions that ultimately led to the unusual agreement from the property developer to sell the land to the city if citizens want to foot the cost of acquisition. But he also voted to approve the PUD for development if the sales tax is rejected.
“If the citizens want to control this piece of land, I think that we should buy it. I think that we should own it,” Josh Moore said. “But at the same time, I will still not say this was a project that shouldn’t have been approved.”
Several Edmond residents disagree with Josh Moore’s position, which led to the referendum petition to revoke the PUD.
Murdock was asked whether the property’s zoning would need to be changed if the city bought it “to be included in the city’s park system,” as the Oct. 12 ballot language will read.
“We will be governed by that. (…) That’s my opinion. That’s what I believe would happen,” Murdock said. “The council could decide to rezone the property with a PUD for park use.”
City manager Larry Stevens said the 22 acres being considered is south of the creek that forms the Hafer Park southern boundary at present.
“If the voters approve (the sales tax purchase), we will develop a recommendation for you as to the best particular use for that park site,” Stevens said.
The property has been the subject of prior citywide votes, including a 2017 referendum where citizens disapproved a separate PUD. A decade earlier, voters also made developing that property more difficult by approving new zoning requirements.
Background on the Memorial Road-adjacent petition
The other referendum petition backed by some Edmond citizens seeks to repeal an approved planned unit development on land north of Memorial Road and west of I-35 Frontage Road.
Some citizens have voiced concerns about traffic and density in the area, and a referendum to recall the PUD approval was filed with the Edmond City Clerk on May 7 after receiving 3,258 signatures — well above the 2,712 signatures required to force an election.
Proponent of the referendum petition and Edmond resident Vincent Lombardo said there were three issues of concern for his Tall Oaks Neighborhood Association that prompted the attempt to stop the construction of the multifamily apartments by Case Development, LLC.
“The Tall Oaks Neighborhood Association was significantly concerned about traffic, school over-crowding and population density without a plan to address those things by the city, which is why we put up the fight that we did,” Lombardo said.
But Todd McKinnis, counsel for Case & Associates, filed a petition filed in Oklahoma County District Court on July 6 alleging that the Memorial Road referendum petition “contained multiple deficiencies that show a pattern of disregard for the statutory rules and safeguards that seek to prevent deceit and fraud in the referendum petition process” because it failed to include the proponents’ signatures as well as an election date.
At an April meeting, the Edmond City Council approved Ordinance No. 3832, which rezones the property near Memorial and Frontage roads from “a single family dwelling district” and “E-1 retail general commercial district” to a “planned unit development for south Edmond multifamily project.”
The planned unit development would include two variances and about 301 multifamily apartments developed by Case Development, LLC.
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